Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Operation Crossbow" Unhurt by Melodramatics

Cleveland Press August 17, 1965

Allied espionage agents are again out-foxing the Nazis in World War II, this time in a film called "Operation Crossbow."

The movie is concerned with the efforts to locate and knock out German V - 1 buzz - bomb and V-2 rocket installations. It is a mixture of fact and fiction. That the fiction doesn't seem as terribly far fetched as it is, is to the credit of director Michael Anderson and the rapid pace he has set.

The early scenes depict top-secret conferences in London, with Winston Churchill (Patrick Wymore) assigning Duncan Sandys (Richard Johnson) to find out what new weapons Germany is devising

THERE FOLLOWS the sessions with scientists, photo interpreters, counter- intelligence experts and the debates over what the weapon might be and where it is located.

Alternating with these scenes are others showing the Germans developing the V-1 flying bomb. Barbara Rueting impersonates Hanna Reitsch who actually flew one of these. Among the Nazis are some familiar figures from older World War II films -- Helmut Dantine and Paul Henreid.

The Allies organize a group of experts who can be parachuted into occupied Holland. Their mission is to get jobs in the underground rocket base and destroy it.

THE AGENTS PICKED are an American (George Peppard), a Dutchman (Tom Courtenay) and an Englishman (Jeremy Kemp). They are provided with the identification papers of rocket experts believed to be dead. Sophia Loren appears briefly as the wife of the man Peppard is impersonating.

There are the expected moments of suspense -- the danger of the disguises being penetrated, unknown facts turning up to trip them in their impersonations.

It is when the film leaves the larger picture of the detective work involved in discovering what the Nazis are up to, and concentrates on the use of agents in enemy territory, that the director's sure hand is most important.

THERE ARE outrageous coincidences, obvious melodramatic touches, but there is also a sense of urgency and excitement in the entire undertaking.

Some of this is achieved with superior film editing -- the juxtaposition of scenes showing the Allies getting closer and closer to penetrating the base, the Germans getting more expert in the development of the rocket, the scenes showing the rockets whistling through the still air over England and indiscriminantly hitting all parts of London.

GOOD PERFORMANCES help too. Peppard does well enough in what is almost a stock characterization -- the inevitable American agent included in the operation. Courtenay and Kemp are perfect as his co-agents. Lilli Palmer etches a sharp characterization as an innkeeper who is also an underground leader.

The entire affair ends in a rousing burst of heroics gunfire and explosions. If the conclusion is inevitable it is none the less exciting.